The market for functional beverages is soaring and is expected to double in the next 10 years. It makes sense when you consider that more people are becoming health-conscious and foregoing alcoholic drinks and sugary sodas in favor of healthier options.
Functional beverages can help with anything from reduced stress to supported immune system function to healthier digestion. But with all the different ingredients that functional beverages can include, it may be hard to decide which ones to pick.
In this guide from Sunwink, we’ll go over everything you need to know about functional beverages, including what they are and how they can benefit your health. Then we’ll share some of our favorite functional beverages to get you started.
What Are Functional Beverages?
We know very well that there’s a strong relationship between our diet and our health. The term “functional beverage” came from the recognition that some of what we consume can drastically impact our biology.
Sure, we may drink to quench thirst or get a quick energy boost. But some beverages can come with added benefits to our health — those that exceed their nutritional value.
When we talk about functional beverages, we’re referring to anything that can promote health benefits. These drinks can include vitamins, minerals, probiotics, mushrooms, herbs, and other beneficial compounds. Plus, some varieties tend to be low in sugar, artificial sweeteners, and filler ingredients.
Because our society is starting to recognize the harms of sugary drinks and alcoholic beverages, many are switching to healthier options. So, it should come as no surprise that the market for functional beverages is booming — with tons of options to satisfy everyone’s needs.
What Are Functional Beverages Good For?
Depending on their ingredients, functional beverages have dozens of potential benefits.
Here are some of the ways they could benefit your health.
If you live in the modern world, you’re probably no stranger to stress. Whether it’s work, money issues, or world events that have you feeling on edge, a functional beverage could help you wind down at the end of the day.
Depending on what you drink, you’ll run across one of the following:
- Adaptogens: These are a group of plants that “adapt” themselves to hormone levels. If there are too many freely circulating stress hormones in a body system, then some people believe that adaptogens help to balance them. Some notable examples include ashwagandha (which you can find in our Hibiscus Mind Unwind Sparkling Superfood Tonic), ginseng, and maca.
- L-theanine: This amino acid is found in many plants, most notably in green tea leaves. One randomized controlled trial found that L-theanine can help support sleep, soothe tension, and support cognitive performance, making it the perfect relief for those who also need to stay sharp.
- Magnesium: This is an essential mineral that controls muscle and nerve function (amongst many other things). Studies found a link between a magnesium deficiency and physical stress, which can lead to increased blood pressure and heart rate. Many people are not getting enough magnesium, which makes it important to include this important mineral as a supplement. And what better way to do it than with a delicious functional beverage?
- CBD: Cannabidiol (CBD) is the non-psychoactive part of the marijuana plant. CBD can induce a non-buzzed calm, which could be perfect for those looking for feelings of relaxation with a “high.”
- Melatonin: A popular sleep aid, melatonin is actually a hormone produced by our body. It’s gradually released around the evening and signals to the brain that it’s time for bed. Some people turn to melatonin as a natural sleep aid.
There’s more to hydration than getting enough water. Important electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and calcium are also essential for keeping our fluid balance in check. Functional beverages combine the perfect ratio of electrolytes to get you hydrated quickly. These drinks aren’t only for athletes — anyone who regularly works out could use an extra boost of hydration.
Gone are the days of sugar-laden energy drinks. Today’s functional beverages combine good-for-you ingredients that have been clinically shown to increase energy levels.
Most notably, this includes adaptogens, antioxidants, and B vitamins. These ingredients help maintain feelings of energy and mental clarity, and they have other potential health benefits, too.
We’re exposed to potentially harmful microbes practically all the time. Our immune system — if it works the way it should — protects us against these harmful microbes.
Our immune system is pretty complex, involving many different pathways in the body. In order for it to work properly, our immune system needs plenty of nutrients from a healthy diet. Some nutrients that support the immune system include vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and amino acids. Being deficient in any of these can weaken the immune system.
On the other hand, getting more of these nutrients can boost immunity. For instance, vitamin C is a flu-season-favorite because it can help support proper white blood cell production, which can help to fight infection. And antioxidants — found in colorful plant foods — can help support cell health during infection.
Did you know that we have trillions of bacteria living in our gut? Known as the microbiome, these gut bacteria help us digest food, store fat, and produce many necessary chemicals, like serotonin.
Many functional beverages contain probiotics, which are basically “good” bacteria that can help your body with healthy digestion. These bacteria are mostly found in fermented drinks, like kombucha and kefir.
Just as important are prebiotics, which are food for the “good” bacteria that already exist in your microbiome. Although it sounds fancy, prebiotics are nothing more than fiber found in various plants.
Gut bacteria aside, some other ingredients can support healthy digestion in other ways. For example, ginger is said to increase movement through the digestive tract and support the digestive system as a whole. You can find ginger in our Detox Ginger Sparkling Superfood Tonic.
Being in a healthy weight range is associated with all kinds of benefits, such as reduced joint pain, more efficient circulation, and reduced risk of chronic disease. Of course, modern society makes it super hard to maintain a healthy weight, which is why we sometimes have to turn to outside help to keep healthy.
Functional beverages contain ingredients that can either directly support fat burning or make it easier for you to keep in a healthy weight range.
For instance, apple cider vinegar has been shown by several studies to increase metabolism, which can directly support weight loss. On the other hand, ingredients like caffeine can suppress your appetite, making you eat less — another way to attain a healthy weight.
Healthy Nails, Hair, and Skin
It may seem like your nails, hair, and skin only have to do with your appearance, but they’re actually a major indicator of your overall health. For instance, frequent breakouts could be a sign of whole-body inflammation, while overly shedding hair can signify a nutrient deficiency. So, when functional beverages promise you thicker hair, stronger nails, or glowing skin, they are trying to optimize your health.
One of the most popular ingredients in beauty products is collagen — a type of bodily protein that’s responsible for keeping skin smooth and firm. Although it recently came onto the health and wellness scene, it’s made waves in beauty circles. Some people claim collagen has given them the appearance of firmer-looking skin.
Antioxidants are another favorite for healthy skin. Found in various plants, antioxidants work by scavenging the body for free radicals, which are molecules that cause all kinds of harm at the cellular level. We get lots of free radicals from sun exposure and air pollution. Antioxidants could help play a role in minimizing the damage when part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Our Favorite Functional Beverages
You may not think that coffee is a functional beverage, but some think that coffee’s the O.G. of them.
Coffee’s pretty well-known for giving you a nice boost of energy, but it does so much more than that. Coffee has a high antioxidant content, which is great for maintaining your appearance and could help support other aspects of your health.
Depending on the type of coffee you drink, you may be getting various healthy plant chemicals, such as polyphenols.
2. Coconut Water
All-natural coconut water is a great source of all types of electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Because it’s made by nature, the electrolytes are in perfect balance. Plus, the small amount of glucose in coconut water can help the body to rehydrate more efficiently.
3. Digestion Lemon Tonic
To support your gut health, we made this tonic with a blend of ingredients shown to support digestion:
- Dandelionroot: This plant is a natural diuretic, which means that it increases the amount of water moving through your body. Dandelion root may help support the body’s detoxification system.
- Lemonbalm: This ingredient can be very effective for soothing problems with the digestive tract, which include bloating, gas, and indigestion.
- Chicory: The root of the chicory plant is full of fiber, which can provide literal food for your microbiome while supporting healthy digestion.
4. Immunity Berry Tonic
Whether it’s flu season or not, keeping your immune system in top shape is always important. Aside from protecting you from pathogens, a healthy immune system can help to reduce whole-body inflammation, which is one of the keys to optimal health.
To boost your immunity, our Immunity Berry Sparkling Superfood Tonic is made with the following ingredients.
- Elderberry: These dark-colored berries are full of vitamins that can help to support the many functions of the immune system.
- Gojiberry: These berries are a potent source of antioxidants. Antioxidants could help maintain the body’s wellness as a whole and can help support immune function.
- Blueberry: These popular berries contain flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that can help support cells during an infection. Plus, they’re chock-full of vitamin C, a popular immunity booster.
5. Turmeric Recover Tonic
Proper recovery is just as important as your gym routine. If you find yourself getting and staying sore more than usual, turmeric could help improve your wellness. Turmeric Recover Sparkling Superfood Tonic can cut down on how much time you spend in recovery mode.
It’s made with the following ingredients.
- Turmeric: This plant contains curcumin, a compound with anti-inflammatory properties that can help maintain muscle recovery.
- Rosemary: This herb can help support circulation, which can get nutrients to sore muscles and speed up their recovery.
To meet your health and wellness goals, functional beverages contain many good-for-you ingredients. For great-tasting functional beverages, check out Sunwink’s selection of superfood tonics and powders.